Vanessa Reiser has personal experience of this specific form of abuse after being engaged to “a diagnosed narcissist sociopath” with a history of abusing previous partners.
The clinical therapist will run close to a marathon every day for 12 days as part of a campaign to raise $200,000 (£144,000) to fund victim recovery services.
“Narcissistic abuse is an insidious form of domestic violence,” Ms Reiser told People (The TV Show!).
“Narcissists generally will use the wedding or an engagement as a form of control and manipulation. They entangle you. And so, [the dress] is a representation of how they do that.”
Ms Reiser also opened up about her own experience of abuse with her ex-partner. “He left me in Cape Cod and then I had to rent a car to get home,” she said.
“He padlocked me out of the house. A few months later, I left him and he spit on me, called me a bunch of really awful names, told me that my dead father was a loser – my father died when I was 18 – and then he bleached all my clothing.”
She added that he even tried to get her fired from her position on the board of a domestic violence centre by claiming she was abusing him.
“There was a lot of pain,” she said. “I had to stay at my mother's house for three months. It was really awful.”
Ms Reiser will embark upon the challenge on 17 May and plans to finish in Manhattan on 29 May.
She had a message for those who may relate to her story: “I believe you. We believe you. Get safe. Try to find some courage, clarity, and confidence,” she said.
“One of the things that a narcissist is afraid of is power,” she added. “So look for that power and if you have a hard time finding it, explore your passions, figure out what you're good at, what you enjoy and go for that.”
The Oxford English dictionary defines a narcissist as “having or showing an excessive interest in or admiration of oneself and one's physical appearance“. Narcissistic domestic abuse is another form of emotional and psychological abuse typified by coercive control.
In March, domestic violence support charity Refuge revealed that calls to their helpline had surged by 61 per cent over the past year due to the conditions of lockdown.
Lisa King, Refuge director of communications and external relations, said: “For women and children experiencing domestic abuse, home is not a safe place. Lockdown measures, where women have been isolated and confined with their perpetrators more than ever, have compounded their exposure to violence and abuse.”
Anyone who requires help or support can contact the National Domestic Abuse Helpline which is open 24/7 365 days per year on 0808 2000 247 or via their website https://www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk/
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